Cooper Rush became a hero for the Dallas Cowboys last season. When starting quarterback Dak Prescott missed five games with an injury, Rush filled in. Normally the hope is that the backup QB can maybe win a game or two, but with Rush at the helm, Dallas went 4-1, a span of games that may have been the difference in getting to the playoffs. Despite that, there was speculation that he was in a heated battle with Will Grier to remain QB2. That no longer seems the case after the preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And it is more than just his seniority in the job.
The way the time was divided between Rush and Grier clearly showed their relative position. Rush played the first quarter and then Grier went the rest of the way. That shows last year’s primary backup was ahead on the depth chart, and was afforded a bit of protection. More importantly, his performance on the field showed that he might be a much better fit for the Mike McCarthy offense.
Dubbed the Texas Coast offense, it is a derivation of the West Coast offense, and as our David Howman has shown, the installation is going rather well. The stats from the game also show that Rush is doing much better than Grier in the scheme. While it is of course very early, there are a couple of strong hints that this is a very good situation for Rush.
The hallmark of the West Coast offense is quick, short passes to keep the chains moving as the primary approach. That means throwing to tight ends and running backs a lot. Rush seemed to take right to it, as Howman showed in his piece.
It appeared as if both Cooper Rush and Will Grier were operating within a scheme that instructed them to go through their first two reads and then find the checkdown option. The result was very few deep drops and plenty of quick hitters. In fact, nine of Rush’s 12 attempts in the game were to either running backs or tight ends.
That shows Rush was following the plan, but just throwing the ball at certain players is not enough. The passes need to be completed. Rush was much better than Grier, connecting on 10 of those 12 passes. Grier went 22 of 31. Further, as Howman also mentions, Rush was getting the ball out very quickly, taking an average of just 2.18 seconds to get the ball out of his hands. Grier was also pretty fast, 2.32 seconds, but at least one of his three sacks was the result of holding onto the ball too long rather than throwing it away.
Rush is simply more experienced, and that high completion rate speaks well of his accuracy. One thing he does not do better than Grier is throw the long ball, but now that is not as important.
While it is perhaps more of a side effect, the new offense does what had to be done when Rush was called into action last year. It focuses on short, quick completions and fewer reads. While things will be different when Prescott is playing, the basic things Rush and Grier were doing against the Jaguars will still be the core of the offense. That means there will be fewer adjustments than had to be made when Prescott was injured in 2022. While Rush got those four wins, they were mostly due to a stretch of simply outstanding games by the Dallas defense. Rush was tasked more with not losing the games than winning them.
Now, while there will still be some dialing back, it should be much less, and Rush should be able to do better than he did last season when he was filling what is termed a bus driver role. It would also make things easier on the rest of the offense to not have to make as many adjustments. For the most part, the team could just keep running most of the playbook used when Prescott is on the field. That had to be severely curtailed during Rush’s games.
We don’t want to see the backup QB on the field at all, outside of some occasional mop up work. But if it happens, Rush seems to fit what McCarthy wants to do much better than he did the scheme last season. He already had a lot of value to the team, but the changes this year have caused that to appreciate nicely.